Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The smell of madness

Did you know that there is a substance (trans-3-methyl-2 hexenoic acid) that is unscientifically described as the smell of madness?

Is this not one of the most fascinating things you've ever heard?

7 comments:

eat my shorts said...

That is fascinating. Tell me more. How did you find this out? Does this mean that there is a smell of despair? Of lust? Curiouser and curiouser.

Alex said...

I didn't know about the cute nickname, but isn't that the stuff in sweat that some people reckon schizophrenics produce more of?

And hasn't that been disproved?

jo_blue said...

Yes, terribly fascinating. I wonder if i reek of it?

Melbourne Girl said...

I think it was referenced in a novel EMS, I wrote it down. Can look for it if you really want to know.

I googled it and maybe read something about it being an unconfirmed (or disproved?) theory. Not sure. But it's things like this that, for me, don't really matter if they are true or not. Which is probably offensive to schizophrenics, so sorry if anyone is offended.

I love the idea though. That there might be the smell of despair. Of sadness. Of disappointment. Or of joy. Like colours can have attachments to emotions, and the concept of synaesthesia. It's all very intriguing.

You're the science person Alex, what do you know about it?

Alex said...

I don't want to seem like a big old rain cloud on this, but I think that, in this case, even if it was true, it'd be more about the smell of a disorder, rather than an emotion. That is, rather than likening it to the smell of lust or despair, you'd be likening it to the smell of autism or asthma.

That isn't to say that emotional states don't produce odors. I think there's still quite a bit of debate over that.

And I agree that the goings-on of the brain are absolutely fascinating. I got taken to see that Ayrton Senna doco the other day (it was quite good) and there was this bit where Senna way saying that when he went really, really fast, he could literally feel the presence of God. I wonder what was going on in his mind?

Melbourne Girl said...

No thanks for your thoughts Alex. What I like is the idea of things often more than the reality.

Melbourne Girl said...

Hmmm just spent a bit more time on this. I was mentioned in a book by Sebastian Faulks (a novel) - Human Traces (I think, I've been dipping in and out of so many different books recently).

Then if you google there is stuff, so I'm not sure whether it's true or not but there's anecdotal stuff about it and many people believe there's something in it.

Eg http://scienceblogs.com/omnibrain/2007/06/the_smell_of_crazy.php

* I know some of the language could be seen as offensive so apols in advance for that.